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First Thoughts: Health-care battle continues

Health care battle continues… OFA releases new TV ad trying to boost the health law’s popularity, while GOP politicians try to chart a course on how to roll back the law… Gingrich: GOP can’t just be against Obamacare… Violence in Egypt represents foreign-policy disaster for U.S… The sequester’s impact on science funding… And the latest in Kentucky’s fascinating Senate race.

*** Health-care battle continues: A month and a half before enrollment begins in the new health-care law’s exchanges, President Obama and his allies are still trying to boost the law’s popularity, while Republicans are still trying to chart a course on how to roll back the law. This morning, Obama’s Organizing for Action is up with its third TV ad promoting the law’s benefits, and this one features a family from North Carolina applauding the rebate they received from their insurance company. "When the Affordable Care Act was passed, we ended up getting a $350 rebate from our insurance company, and then [our son’s] premiums would go down by about $60 a month," the mother says in the commercial, which will air on national cable. The father adds, "It's nice to see somebody is looking out for the little guy." And the mother concludes: "The law works." Meanwhile, Republican leaders continue to back away from the idea of threatening to shut down the government if the health-care law isn’t defunded. "The problem is the bill that would shut down the government wouldn't shut down Obamacare," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday. But a new idea is gaining currency among House Republicans, per National Review’s Robert Costa -- using the sequester and debt limit to delay the health-care law.

President Barack Obama speaks about Affordable Care Act at The Fairmont Hotel on June 6, 2013 in San Jose, Calif. Stephen Lam / Getty Images

*** Gingrich: GOP can’t just be against Obamacare: But as Republicans debate whether to defund or delay Obamacare, Newt Gingrich gave his party this advice yesterday at the RNC’s summer meeting in Boston: You can’t just be against Obamacare; you have to be for an alternative, too. When Republicans ask their members over the August recess “What is your positive replacement for Obamacare?” Gingrich said, “they will have zero answer.” Gingrich added, per NBC’s Frank Thorp: "I think part of what we need to do in the era of Obama's disaster is we have to get beyond being anti-Obama and we have to re-convince people that we can have hope in America, that we can have a better future.”

*** Violence in Egypt represents foreign-policy disaster for U.S.: No one ever said that foreign policy was easy, especially in the Middle East and Arab world. But the situation in Egypt has become a foreign-policy disaster for the U.S as the violence continues in that country. NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin reports that the official death toll stands at 525, while another 3,700 have been injured (and it’s likely those numbers are much higher). Yesterday, a White House spokesman released this statement: “The United States strongly condemns the use of violence against protesters in Egypt. We extend our condolences to the families of those who have been killed, and to the injured. We have repeatedly called on the Egyptian military and security forces to show restraint.” Yet President Obama, who remains on his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, has yet to comment on the new violence -- as calls for the U.S. to cut off foreign aid to Egypt grow. The New York Times has a good analysis on all of the post-Arab Spring unrest: Peace is much harder than revolution, it says. “Middle East historians and analysts say that the political and economic stagnation under decades of autocratic rule that led to the uprisings also left Arab countries ill equipped to build new governments and civil society. While some of the movements achieved their initial goals, removing longtime leaders in four countries, their wider aims — democracy, dignity, human rights, social equality and economic security — now appear more distant than ever.”

*** The sequester’s impact on science funding: In his continuing look at the consequences of the sequester -- especially those that haven’t received much national attention -- the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein examines the budget cuts in science funding. “In 2013 alone, [the National Institutes of Health], the primary federal spigot for projects impacting human health, will be forced to cut $1.7 billion from its budget. Government agencies across the board are making similar reductions in their research budgets as well. The length of some grants have been shortened, while others have decreased in size and still others have been eliminated altogether. Though they aren't supposed to do so, university officials have begun siphoning money from funded projects to those feeling the pinch, in hopes that if they hang on long enough, help will eventually come.”

*** The latest in the Kentucky Senate race: Finally, here are some of the moving parts in the fascinating Kentucky Senate race. The liberal group Progressive Change Campaign Committee is up with a relatively small-sized TV ad (airing in Louisville broadcast at $21,000-plus) that hits Mitch McConnell on Social Security. And McConnell’s GOP primary opponent, Matt Bevin, has a new web video highlighting the fact that the Senate minority leader hasn’t joined the Ted Cruzes and Mike Lees calling to defund Obamacare.

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